Thoughts On The Elevate Summit

Wow! Can you feel it? You can feel it right? We’re here. We made it here.

It’s been three years.

For a number of our members, this is the first time being in the same room together. And for so many of us, the first time in a long time.

So to begin… in the spirit of being back in the same actual room, how about you turn to your neighbor and give ‘em a high five, a handshake, or a pound…

If we sit in the present moment of what Elevate is… what it’s become… it just seems normal. The numbers. The people. The structure. The leadership. It’s like asking a fish what water is… it’s just what is. But there were no guarantees that we’d get back here. And many other groups, organizations, and communities did not make it through.

Look around. Here we are… in some ways better than ever. And of course, being together like this is really something special. We might even say miraculous.

So how *did* we get here? How did we succeed and even thrive where some others got stopped?

I’ve given it a lot of thought, and I have the answer… the reason Elevate continues to succeed is simple…


I say that without arrogance or intending to be braggadocios.

I’m not even asking you to take my word for it.

For his highly impactful book “Good to Great,” Jim Collins and a team of highly educated researchers spent years distilling down what made the difference between good companies and great companies. They created stringent criteria and though they began by examining over 1,400 candidates, only eleven companies met their bar. Among them: Wells Fargo, Walgreens, Gilette and Circuit City.

There’s a lot to this conversation, and it’s truly brilliant what Collins and his team discovered from the data. But today I want to briefly tell you about six elements that were observed in these eleven companies. Perhaps you’ll not only recognize our very own Elevate, you’ll take these concepts with you and keep them in mind for your own endeavors.

The first commonality of these truly spectacular organizations was their leadership. And not just any kind, but something Collins and his team came to call Level 5 Leadership. Leaders who are humble, driven, and focused on achieving the company’s goals rather than their own personal success. It’s not that they didn’t want to succeed… of course they did, it’s that they prioritized the whole over themselves and their individual goals. And that raised all boats and lead to wins for everybody.

The second finding was that great companies prioritize hiring and developing the right people before deciding on their strategy or direction. First is the Who, then the What. Think about our process here and how we go about selecting who owns these seats. We get the best people on the bus, and then we hit the road together. And a special mention to the founding members who are still in our chapter. Thanks for finding the right people in the beginning. And to our newer members, thanks for taking a chance and showing drive and courage during an uncertain time in the world.

Number three, those top eleven companies were not afraid to confront the brutal facts. They faced the reality of their situation and made tough decisions based on data and evidence, rather than wishful thinking. Our leaders and the MC have to roll with whatever is happening, and then attempt what seems like the best course of action at the time. Hats off to them too.

Number four: something the research team called The Hedgehog Concept… great companies focus on doing one thing exceptionally well, and align everything they do around that one thing. We network. And while there are tangential efforts and benefits, we keep our eye on the target.

Number five: A Culture of Discipline… great companies have a culture of discipline that promotes freedom and responsibility, and ensures that everyone is aligned and accountable. We have structures that keep us engaged but also allow for personal freedom. And we as individual members and as a collective, have the discipline to choose time and again to show up. I’m sure many of you remember the Union Square Ballroom… and then Rosa Mexicano… and then Rosa Mexicano uptown… and then Zoom, and now showing up here today. We are committed to the cause and hold to the path forward.

And number six: Technology Accelerators: Great companies use technology as an accelerator of their growth and success, rather than as the driver of it. Fundamentally, Elevate is human-centric. It’s not about tech as control but as a boost, elevating what is already possible.

To be clear, these elements are not a guarantee of success, but they can help companies, organizations, and communities become great by fostering the right leadership, people, culture, and strategy.

And so I submit to you, my fellow Elevators, that what has been created here is something valuable, something special, something truly GREAT.

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